Crowe Plans Banks Job
A happily married couple and young child find their lives comes crashing down when something happens forcing the husband to take matters into his own hands. That for me is a familiar set up, I have watched countless movies where a husband seeks justice for a death of a wife or child but that is where "The Next Three Days" differs as instead of wanting justice the husband in this movie wants his wife out of jail and when the judicial system fails him takes matters into his own hands. It is certainly a more original idea although it has to be said that "The Next Three Days" is a Hollywood remake of a French movie. But whilst "The Next Three Days" is entertaining with nice detail and acting from Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks it is a movie which at 133 minutes feels too long, dragging in places until we reach the final thirty dramatic minutes.
Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks - Role Models) had a bad day but that didn't stop her from going out to dinner with husband John (Russell Crowe - Robin Hood) and their friends but it certainly stops things the next morning when police barge in and arrest Lara for the murder of her boss. Never doubting his wife's innocence John battles on, looking for flaws in the evidence and pushing their lawyer to find a way to get her released. But when all hope is lost John decides to look inside himself for the hope they need. Determined to unite his family he decides he is going to break Lara out of prison but with no experience of anything he needs to know it is a tough learning process especially when after months of planning and watching he learns that they plan to move Lara to another facility.
So in truth "The Next Three Days" is an incredibly simple movie and is about a husband with no criminal experience planning to break his wife out from jail. And it wastes no time getting to this point because whilst the movie starts in the present it quickly jumps back 3 years, then 2 years and so on till we get back to a few months before where the movie starts and we are focussed on John trying to plan Lara's break out.
What is so good about all of this is that for once we have a character that whilst patiently researches and plans gets things wrong and sometimes suffers when he does. An attempt to get false documents results in being beaten up and an attempt to use a bump key brings him to the attention of the law. In some hands you could see these sorts of mishaps being turned into comedy but here it is played 100% straight and as we watch John forced to rush his preparations we see how it affects him not just in his state of desperation but also in knowing that it could result in their son Luke ending up with both parents in prison.
But this is just the first part of "The Next Three Days" and whilst exciting enough it leads to a Hollywood style ending as John puts his plans into action and we watch having learnt certain things that they have only so much time to get out of the city before they stand no chance of getting free. It would be fair to say that this climax is a typically exhilarating Hollywood ending with chases and action and a few coincidences that you have to accept but it works.
Now part of the reason why "The Next Three Days" works is the combination of some clever writing and director Paul Haggis allowing that writing to stay the focus even when the action kicks in. But it is also the performances and whilst there are several solid performances none more so from Elizabeth Banks as Lara "The Next Three Days" is in truth all about Russell Crowe and Crowe once again delivers. He manages to make John inept but not a fool, so when he blindly does something which goes wrong you can sense the panic and annoyance when he realises his mistake. And when he contemplates doing something desperate you can physically feel his sense of panic, fear and utter desperation.
What this all boils down to is that "The Next Three Days" is an effective thriller which both makes you pay attention but also delivers a Hollywood action climax. It is a remake of a French movie but it is such a good story that it deserved being remade whether you agree with the remake culture or not.